SXSW involved choosing between countless events for me. There were endless decisions to make – where to eat, who to listen to, what films to see. People could not stop talking about which artists were worth their time and money.
After a week of decisions and complex plans, my friends and I took some time off from the festival. We had to find our bearings again. So we made for a simpler place – Zilker Park.
We knew that we had to change how we approached SXSW. All the calculating and planning had exhausted us.
This was an opportunity to use something I learned about while studying philosophy at UT Austin. Instead of making all those decisions ourselves, we decided to follow the “Tao of Zilker.”
The Tao (pronounced “Dao”) is a philosophical idea from ancient China. It is the fundamental teaching of the Taoists, who basically think people should follow the natural flow of the Universe instead of relying on their own small plans for happiness. The Tao is by nature indescribable (which makes blogging about it less than easy), but it is the cosmic force that influences every possible decision a person could make.
After a bit of discussion, my friends and I got our Tao on and went wherever our feet took us. From that point, the Tao began to unfold.
We started by aimlessly walking along the Green Belt, watching kayakers paddle in the blue water of the Brazos.
Occasionally, we would stop and talk to the joggers on the trail. Even they were planning their day around South by Southwest events. They informed us that SXSW was featuring some new music shows later that day. Everybody on the trail was talking about the possible artists. Was it Animal Collective? Perhaps it was Mumford and Sons, or maybe Drake, or Iron and Wine. Nobody knew for sure.
After a few miles and a lot of hearsay and rumor, we started to get hungry. So we let the Tao decide where we should eat. We flipped a coin and walked East down Barton Springs Road until we sat down at a small bar & grill.
We ate our burgers as the sun set. It was time to dive back into SXSW. Our smartphones came out as the discussions turned to venues, artists and cover charges. Soon, however, my friend Caleb turned off his iPhone and reminded us:
“Guys, who cares what bands are playing? This is South by Southwest. We gotta follow the Tao and we will find some awesome events.”
We laughed a little bit as we put our phones away, but we recognized a bit of truth in his statement. South by Southwest is a huge festival. Simply walking through Downtown would pull us toward something worth experiencing. Heeding Caleb’s advice, we payed our bill and walked across the river and toward the bright lights of 6th Street.
Following the Tao worked again. That night we wandered and listened to the comedy of Doug Benson. We discovered musicians like I Am Oak and The Parson Red Heads. Later, we topped the night off with a live performance by Lil Wayne and Young Money Entertainment. We never could have experienced all that if we had planned our events ahead of time.
You know, sometimes the best decision you can make is to not decide at all.
Austinot Dusty asks:
What is your best unplanned experience from SXSW?
(Photos property of Marcus Calderon, mrlaugh and Haleigh Burger, respectively.)